Wines from the north of England and Scotland are the future, French experts say

A man carries boxes of grapes between rows of vines
Ryedale in North Yorkshire is England's most northerly commercial vineyard - Alamy

Wine produced as far north as Northumberland and Scotland will threaten the future of traditional grape growing regions, experts have found.

A new global map created by scientists from France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy wine provinces predicts that wine production will be forced to shift from the traditional terroir of southern Europe to the northernmost reaches of Britain.

Changes in global temperatures are set to make mid-latitude regions – such as southern France, northern Spain and Italy, and the New World vineyards of southern California and Barossa in Australia – unsuitable for production.

Areas once considered too cool and wet for viticulture, such as the northern British Isles, southern Scandinavia and the Pacific north-west of the US, will be the winemaking “winners”, according to the study.

Increased heat waves and erratic rainfall could wipe out vineyards from Greece to California by 2100, researchers found.

The map, created by teams from Inrae, a public research institute for agriculture, food and the environment; Bordeaux Sciences Agro, the French National Centre for Scientific Research; and the universities of Bordeaux and Burgundy shows southern Britain as likely to enjoy “improved suitability”, while the north of the UK is designated as a “new wine region”.

At the same time Southern Europe is predicted to face a “high risk of unsuitability” for wine production as the mercury rises.

Researchers considered two scenarios: one where warming remains within two degrees Celsius of pre-industrial average, the limit set by the 2015 Paris climate accord, and another where global temperatures rise by 2C to 4C.

Either way, French scientists predict British vines will benefit at the expense of their Mediterranean counterparts.

The report found around half of current wine regions might benefit or maintain their suitability for winemaking with a temperature increase of 2°C or below, but a rise beyond 2°C could make up to 70 per cent of traditional wine regions unsuitable.

A vineyard in a Yorkshire landscape, with a town beyond it
Last of the summer vine: Holmfirth Vineyard in West Yorkshire - John Potter/Alamy

Overall, the suitable surface area of traditional wine-producing regions is predicted to decline by 20 per cent to 70 per cent by the end of the century, depending on the severity of global warming.

Cornelis van Leeuwen, professor of viticulture at Bordeaux Sciences Agro and lead author of the report, said: “Climate change is changing the geography of wine – there will be winners and losers.

“You can still make wine almost anywhere, even in tropical climates, but here we looked at quality wine at economically viable yields.”

The report, published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, warns that under “far more severe warming scenarios, most Mediterranean regions might become climatically unsuitable for wine production”.

There are currently 37 vineyards in northern England and three in Scotland, says Ian Sargent, Midlands and North regional director for trade body WineGB.

Ian Sargent holds a box of grapes, surrounded by his family, outside in a vineyard with union flags flying
Ian Sargent (C), planted Laurel Vines vineyard in 2011, in the East Riding of Yorkshire

In 2015, Scotland’s first homegrown wine was infamously described as “undrinkable” after Christopher Trotter, from Aberdeen, set up his own vineyard in Fife three years earlier.

Plantations north of the border are concentrated in the Scottish Borders area, but Mr Sargent revealed plans are afoot for a new vineyard near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

Mr Sargent, who with wife Ann planted vineyard Laurel Vines in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 2011, said: “The [French] report confirms our data and results; we are seeing an increase in the sunlight hours per year and increasing temperatures; this is resulting in larger, high-quality vintages.

“We have also seen an increase in the number of vineyards across the country, including the north, and there is more interest in finding suitable sites on which to plant vines in the region.”

‘Scotland is a younger market’

He added: “The Midlands and North have some excellent vineyards and wineries producing first-class, award-winning wines.

“The 2023 yield was a record year and for a lot of vineyards this comes on the back of previous fantastic vintages.

“Regarding Scottish vineyards, it’s fair to say that this is a younger market, but as with the north of England, there are sites being acquired and planted.”

British viticulture-climatologist and CEO of vineyard consultancy Vinescapes, Dr Alistair Nesbitt, said: “There is urgent need for adaptation in both warmer established regions and newer, cooler viticulture areas, such as the UK, to better cope with change and variability.”

A report by WineGB last year found the area of Britain covered by vineyards had soared by 74 per cent in just five years.

More than 940 vineyards cover 3,928 hectares of land – mainly in southern England – with that figure expected to almost double within 10 years to 7,600ha, equivalent to more than 10,000 football pitches.